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  • Writer's pictureBeth & Tim Manners

Colby Invests in Downtown Vibe

The New York Times: "Colby is joining a number of smaller colleges that are taking a role in revitalizing flagging downtowns. If colleges are marketing distinctive academic programs and high-quality campus amenities to compete for increasingly discerning students, so, too, are they trying to leverage off-campus assets ... Colgate University, for example, with roughly 3,000 undergraduate students, owns a historic inn with a tavern, a bookstore and a movie theater in the Village of Hamilton, N.Y. Its efforts began in 2000 and have picked up in recent years."

"In Waterville, Colby College is drawing on a fund-raising campaign, cash reserves and debt financing to pump some $82 million into the redevelopment of five major projects on Main Street, about two miles from campus. The first to open was a 200-bed residential hall for students and faculty in 2018, Colby’s only off-campus housing. Across the street, it spent more than $5 million renovating a long-vacant bank building, then dangled low rents to woo an outlet of a Portland-based pizza pub and a software company looking to train local workers. An artisanal chocolate shop with a cafe is on the way."

"And nearby, the college is building a 53-room hotel and restaurant, a visual and performing arts center, and an arts collaborative with studio spaces. All of the buildings will stay on the city tax rolls ... The new residential hall, funded in part by the Harold Alfond Foundation of Maine, is intended to put more feet on downtown streets and strengthen town-gown relations. Students must commit to community volunteerism as a condition of living there. And a 3,800-square-foot meeting space on the ground floor is open for use by community groups and city commissions."

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